David Hume and the Scottish Enlightenment

  • Gerhard EngelEmail author
Reference work entry


This chapter first explains the concept of “Enlightenment” in general and delineates the specifics of “Scottish Enlightenment.” Two major conceptional issues will be discussed: (1) How did the philosophers of Scottish Enlightenment react to the Hobbesian provocation, consisting in the claim of man being a creature guided solely by self-interest, ruthlessly enforcing his interests wherever possible? Hume solved the problem by giving a detailed analysis of human motivations and by distinguishing a close range morality, for which he deemed Hobbes’s analysis to be inappropriate, and a far range morality, which (as Hobbes correctly asserted) must erode without institutional support. (2) The second issue consists in conciliating the individual’s behavior in a market economy with moral demands. Hume and Smith were convinced that the way to modernity, assisted and advanced by Scottish Enlightenment, was no aberration but a possibility, compatible with moral demands, to open up new horizons and to unfold man’s inherent potential for development. In conclusion, this chapter will present Hume’s brilliant anticipation of modern answers to the question of the origins of Europe’s singular historic course, or sonderweg.


Benevolence Businessmen, psychology of Competition Economics and society, interdependence of Enlightenment, Scottish European miracle Experience, method of Free trade Hume, David Hutcheson, Francis Improvement, human Knowledge, progress of Progress Property rights Scottish miracle Smith, Adam Sympathy Virtues Natural Artificial 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Seminar für PhilosophieBraunschweigGermany

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